Meet the first recipients of the Roy Hyndman Award
Innovative research that improves ocean observing
May 15, 2023

Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) is delighted to announce that two doctoral students, Moronke Harris and Fabio Frazao, are the first recipients of the new $20,000 Roy Hyndman Ocean Observing Award.

This award, which was announced in late 2022, aims to help graduate students advance their research using ONC ocean observing data and/or technology, as well as work with leading ocean technology experts.

Fabio Frazao

Fabio Frazao is developing artificial neural networks to detect and classify underwater sounds to better predict the movement of the Salish Sea orcas. He will spend the next year working with ONC to improve his artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to use the same environmental information as the orcas and improve the accuracy of underwater sound detection. He will also be applying his software to work on real-time monitoring of the Salish Sea orcas. This development will be a crucial step in using sound data to predict where whales are going and, among other applications, help reduce ship collisions.

Fabio Frazao, recipient of the Roy Hyndman Ocean Observing Award

“Artificial Intelligence has great potential to help us better understand and care for our oceans. The use of AI techniques in ocean sciences has been progressing quickly over the past years, but I believe it is still in its infancy.
I hope my project will contribute to the orca monitoring efforts in the Salish Sea, and more generally, serve as a template for future projects looking to use AI for observing the oceans,” Frazao says.

Frazao has a background in ecology, electronics, and scientific computing. He joined the Marine Environmental Research Infrastructure for Data Integration and Application Network (MERIDIAN) at Dalhousie University in 2018, where he has been applying AI techniques to underwater sounds. Frazao started his doctoral research at Dalhousie University in 2021, developing AI algorithms that incorporate environmental context into underwater sound detection of marine animals.

Southern Resident Orcas by Ocean Networks Canada
Listen to ONC’s recordings of the Salish Sea Southern Resident orcas, the focus of Roy Hyndman Award recipient, Fabio Frazao.

Moronke Harris

Moronke Harris, an oceanography PhD student at the University of Victoria (UVic), will be utilising ONC’s NEPTUNE observatory to study the Main Endeavour Vent Field on the Juan de Fuca Ridge to advance our understanding of deep-sea ecosystems. Specializing in hydrothermal vent ecosystems 1000-4000 metres under the ocean's surface, her PhD focus intersects vent microbial genetic resource potential and deep-sea mining developments and uses a combination of seafloor mapping, photogrammetric surveys, and microbial genetics. This work will inform active discussions around biodiversity loss that may result from deep-sea mining.

Moronke Harris, recipient of the Roy Hyndman Ocean Observing Award

“Observation of the largely unexplored ocean offers an unparalleled opportunity for revolutionary discoveries and the attainment of scientific milestones, and it requires collaboration and innovation across disciplines and sectors, which is precisely what my thesis focus promotes.
With the support of this award, I can further develop and apply innovative approaches for studying resources provided by deep-sea hydrothermal vents, and contribute to the broader goal of advancing ocean observation.”

Harris previously worked in the climate engineering industry and in intergovernmental, multi-vessel research expedition planning in the high seas. She currently sits on multiple strategic planning, institutional, and advisory committees, and is a two-term elected Graduate Representative as well as an incoming Student Senator at UVic.

The Roy Hyndman Award is named in honour of a leading proponent of the ONC NEPTUNE Observatory, Dr. Roy Hyndman, who also served as the Chair of the Ocean Observatory Council for more than six years.

Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents
Get a glimpse of the Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents, the focus of Roy Hyndman Award recipient, Moronke Harris’s study.
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